O2 – XDA Exec review

powerful 3G PDA phone with keyboard
Photo of O2 – XDA Exec
£399.99 depending on contract

The XDA Exec is the latest in a long line of XDAs from O2, and it is real state of the art stuff. It isn’t small and it isn’t all that pretty, but if you are looking for a PDA that does just about everything a PDA can at the moment, and you don’t mind paying a hefty price for the privilege, it is worth a look.

The immediately striking thing about the XDA Exec is its size: it is larger than usual because it incorporates a (relatively) big keyboard inside a clamshell design. Just like a Tablet PC you can swivel the screen and lay it flat, facing outermost, if you don’t want to use the keyboard.

When you rotate the 640 x 480 pixel, 3.6 diagonal inch screen it automatically reorients from landscape format to portrait, though you can easily change the orientation manually using an icon on the Today screen.

This is a very flexible design, but it does make for quite a lot of bulk to carry around in your pocket; overall the XDA Exec weighs 285g. And it is worth noting that the keyboard, while considerably larger than any other PDA keyboard we’ve seen in recent years, is not large enough for touch-typing.

This is the first PDA from O2 to support 3G communications, and a camera next to the screen lets you make video calls, while a second camera on the back will shoot stills at up to 1,280 x 960 pixels and capture video.

Both Bluetooth and 802.11b are included, so you can hop onto wireless networks when in range and use a Bluetooth headset for voice calls. A wireless headset is probably the best option for voice communications, in fact, the others being the supplied wired headset and holding the hardware to your ear – a job for which it is rather too bulky.

The XDA Exec runs Windows Mobile 5, an updated version of Microsoft’s handheld operating system. Many of the changes from the previous version are under the hood, with the general look and feel remaining familiar. Notable changes include some enhancements to the built-in software Word Mobile and Excel Mobile (renamed from Pocket Word and Pocket Excel), the introduction of a PowerPoint viewer and two new soft-menu buttons on the touch-sensitive screen whose roles change depending on what application you are using at the time.

Our review unit was not quite the final model, and we didn’t have the full memory quota installed, but it looks as though the XDA Exec will be up there with the most memory-rich PDAs available as the final specification is for 128MB of flash memory and 64MB of RAM, with an SD card slot so you can expand on what’s available if necessary.

Company: O2

With its built-in contacts and diary software, supplied PC synchronisation software, and built-in Pocket Internet Explorer, the XDA Exec should provide a large portion of what many mobile professionals need. Bringing 3G into the mix will suit those who need to make fast downloads and video calls. For those who don't want or need the keyboard, though, the XDA Exec might seem a bit too bulky.